For a good few years now, Gen Z have been driving marketing and advertising to change. They are quite starkly different from their millennial counterparts – more socially aware, more affected by global trends, more evaluative, and so on. Marketing has had to really step up to meet these challenges head on. It is currently championing short-form video and interactivity, as they hugely appeal to the younger generation.
However, Gen Z’s successors are fast on their heels. Generation Alpha is defined as children born from around 2010 onwards, with the end of the generation expected to be 2025. This puts them at just pre-teen level. Whilst they are currently a bit too young to be buying a whole lot (if anything) online, they are unquestionably the buyers of the future.
It goes without saying that I am not condoning marketing strategies aimed at young children! Nevertheless, marketers could find it useful to evaluate Gen Alpha’s Internet habits in order to anticipate future challenges.
What Do We Know About Gen Alpha’s Current Habits?
The pandemic completely stripped a whole generation of pupils of a time in our lives that is supposed to be uniquely social and, most importantly, in-person. Suddenly, their whole school experience became limited to a day in front of a computer screen.
You could say it was predictable, then, that Gen Alpha’s priorities are a little different from Gen Z’s in this respect. Despite being more connected online, in this post-pandemic world (if that exists), they actually value meeting their friends in-person far more than they did last year. In 2021, 38% of Gen Alpha said they would like to see their friends in person on the weekends, compared to 43% preferring to speak to them online. This stat has almost entirely flipped for this year – 43% would now rather socialise in person, and 39% prefer online.
Many assumptions about young people hold true for Gen Alpha too – they are frequent users of social media; they prefer TikTok to Facebook; they are very socially aware; and so on. However, they differ in some key ways:
- An astonishing 85% of Gen Alphas say playing video games is their favourite activity; with over half of 8-11 year olds playing Roblox specifically. Games like Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite are incredibly popular with the younger generation. Clearly, Gen Alpha’s engagement in online collaboration and gaming is here to stay.
- Some dub them as ‘mini-millennials’ – ie. they will reflect some habits and values of millennials, since that is their parents’ generation. Unlike Gen Z, who are markedly different from anything else that has come before, Gen Alpha are being raised very differently. This could mean keeping in mind some past ideas and tactics – it’s an interesting difference.
- Despite Gen Alpha’s love of screen time, they also are notably interested in audio-based media. Podcasts are over 10% more popular than they were last year among Gen Alpha, and their popularity continues to grow. When considering reaching the future generation, businesses should definitely be thinking of audio formats.
What Does the Future Hold for Gen Alpha?
The biggest difference between Alphas and previous generations is their relationship with technology. They are the first generation born into technology as a basic part of daily life. So, they will be reliably tech-savvy – ie. they will be used to, and demanding of, instant and reliable service from companies. They do not remember the days of dial-up, or just slower broadband connections. Businesses must be prepared to offer round-the-clock assistance and their own technology expertise to match this savvy generation.
According to Cranfield University, Gen Alpha will be the most wealthy generation yet. This is due to a mix of factors: better social mobility; declining birth rates meaning less people with which to compete; global education standards rising; and the astronomical development of digital business. They will therefore have enormous spending power, making them an enormous focus for business.
Furthermore, they will most likely be the most intelligent and socially aware. This does not necessarily present unique challenges, but does mean businesses should continue existing trends. Just like Gen Z, Gen Alpha will probably want companies to be aware of their societal impact and to provide genuine, clear messaging.
So, What Next?
Thinking forward, businesses should definitely be aware of the changing attitudes as the generations shift. Millennials demanded a shift in marketing and then Gen Z did the same. Therefore, we must assume Gen Alpha will force yet more change. Being aware of the trends of their current Internet usage can help to know what will come in the future. Gen Alpha look to be a compelling mix of their two predecessors, but that does not mean re-treading old advertising ground. With every new generation comes new challenges – it is always better to stay fresh.